HEAT VISION

Why Boyd Holbrook Was Prepared to Say No to Playing Another Dr. Richard Kimble on 'The Fugitive'

Actor Boyd Holbrook - getty - H 2020
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The actor, who stars in the Quibi project, also reflects back on 'Narcos,' 'Logan' and 'The Predator': "You should just let a sleeping dog lie, sometimes."

After two previous TV shows and a feature film, Boyd Holbrook knew it was time for The Fugitive to chart its own course and move beyond another Dr. Richard Kimble and One-Armed Man. And Quibi’s The Fugitive does exactly that by introducing Holbrook’s Mike Ferro, a convicted felon who’s wrongfully accused of bombing a subway train in Los Angeles. To make matters worse, Ferro has Kiefer Sutherland’s Detective Clay Bryce tracking his every move.

If Quibi’s take on The Fugitive had opted not to be a reboot, Holbrook, without hesitation, would’ve declined the offer to play the fourth Dr. Richard Kimble, whom David Janssen and Harrison Ford made famous.

“You invest so much time, energy and effort into developing these characters and trying to tell a story to the best of your abilities. Therefore, I would never waste my time with something that’s been done before,” Holbrook tells The Hollywood Reporter. “And on this project, in particular, yes, we are taking that property, that IP, that theme of the classic underdog story where an innocent man is trying to prove his innocence. But the new iteration of that is basically what we’re doing today in our culture of news cycles and how something publicized about yourself can turn your life upside down in a single headline.”

Holbrook is also looking back on the underperformance of 2018’s The Predator and what he learned from the experience.

“I just think the first one [Predator] caught lightning in a bottle,” Holbrook admits. “And with people wanting to do more, maybe you should just let a sleeping dog lie, sometimes. That was a big takeaway for me.”

In a recent conversation with THR, Holbrook also reflected on how he developed his Logan character, Donald Pierce, re-creating history on Narcos and his Gone Girl experience.

Quibi is a very unique platform, obviously. When you were first pitched a Fugitive show that would air in seven-to-eight minute chunks on mobile phones, what was your first reaction to something so unconventional?

I kind of relate it back to my experience with Netflix and Narcos. They developed original programming and were at the forefront of that [among streaming services]. That’s kind of the evolution of filmmaking and technology, whether it’s through the RED camera being developed or some sort of lighting package. It’s always been the progression of stuff. So it seems like a natural order of progression, to me. And The Fugitive had a great script. I was really keen and eager to work with Kiefer, someone I really looked up to as a kid, and being involved with projects of that scale. And yeah, Jeffrey Katzenberg, he’s got a great track record. So there’s a lot of enticing, attractive things to the piece.

I appreciate how you guys are telling your own story that’s centered around your character, Mike Ferro, while still being very much in line with the spirit of the property. Had the studio come to you and said, “We want you to play the fourth Dr. Richard Kimble who pursues the One-Armed Man for killing his wife,” what would your answer have been?

That’s probably the best question I’ve been asked because I think people ask that in a roundabout way, but they never ask it directly. The answer is absolutely not. You invest so much time, energy and effort into developing these characters and trying to tell a story to the best of your abilities. Therefore, I would never waste my time with something that’s been done before. And on this project, in particular, yes, we are taking that property, that IP, that theme of the classic underdog story where an innocent man is trying to prove his innocence. But the new iteration of that is basically what we’re doing today in our culture of news cycles and how something publicized about yourself can turn your life upside down in a single headline. So that was the contemporary aspect and why we were making it. You have to ask yourself: why are we doing this project now?

Well, Mike has his work cut out for himself since everyone has smartphones now, something Richard Kimble didn’t have to deal with.

(Laughs.) Well, it’s equally got its own boundaries — in bounds and out of bounds of where your story can throw.

Did you shoot The Fugitive like a movie that would be cut up later or like a TV show with seven-to-eight minute episodes?

Yeah, we shot how you would shoot a regular TV series or a regular feature film. It really came down to Stephen Hopkins, our director, and the editor. They cut it and molded it into its shape of these cliffhanger, crescendo, sort of in-and-out episodes.

With Logan, you were able to discover who Donald Pierce was through two lines of dialogue. Did you also figure out who Mike Ferro was through a couple lines of dialogue?

Yeah, I did. I also worked with some inmates at a prison a few years back on getting them to be able to perform in a film [O.G.]. And that was a really unique experience and insight into individuals in the justice system, whether they’re guilty or not. It was a micro view of that, and that was what really drew me to all of this because Mike has a felony on his record. So I drew from that experience and knowing what these guys face if they get out of prison and what they’re up against. I love the counterbalance to that. You just referenced Logan and Wolverine’s a comic book world, right? But there’s tough roads for people in the real world, too. So, rather than having this sort of inflated, theatrical version that’s not so relatable to people’s reality, I like to take projects like this, where Mike Ferro, the character I play, is a blue-collar worker. He’s a very average, everyday guy. It’s important to not forget about those stories too.

Since the series was shot for mobile phones, did you notice that they were shooting tighter than you were accustomed to on most sets?

You know, I think it did feel just like any other thing. I was waiting for that, too. I know that some of the shows are really being designed off of the elements of a phone, whether you turn it sideways or as a portrait. I’m not sure, actually, of the technology on that. But yeah, I prepared for this just as I would, and I feel like we shot it just as I would any other project that I’ve been involved in.

Mike’s friend/parole officer, Kevin (Malcolm Goodwin), gives him a lucky pocket knife of sorts. Do you carry anything like that for good luck or symbolic reasons?

I wear a wedding ring. (Laughs.)

It doesn’t get more symbolic than that!

Yeah, just a couple things. I’ve got my grandfather’s wedding ring that I always have.

Did producers let you do the explosion stunt in the first episode?

Yeah, I got rigged up and everything for that one. That’ll give you some nice whiplash.

Since I always look for connections between cast and crew, did you and your director, Stephen Hopkins, trade Predator war stories on set? (Writer’s note: Hopkins directed Predator 2.)

(Laughs.) Absolutely! Yes, we did. Stephen’s got a great sense of humor about him, and he’s a really playful guy. And he’s a great director, and his sense of humor makes him a great director. Yeah, we definitely shared our Predator dancing. He made this dancing video with Danny Glover and all those Predators on Predator 2. It was for the NBA or something odd. But yeah, everyone is always trying to catch that initial lightning in a bottle on the first film. [Writer’s note: Some of the costumed Predators in Predator 2, as well as the behind-the-scenes dance party video, were players from the Los Angeles Lakers.]

Action movies or shows often have this trope where the main character is recognized in a delightfully dramatic way. In The Fugitive’s case, there’s a scene where Kiefer’s character says, “Son of a bitch, that’s Mike Ferro!” The Bourne Ultimatum also has a great one, “Jesus Christ, that’s Jason Bourne.” Was this a moment of pride for you since it’s a trope that every great action star has enjoyed at one point or another?

It’s kind of the vehicle built inside the script that works for you, right? Even when Mike’s not on camera or on screen, he’s being talked about because he’s the focus of the story. It’s why the story is generating its motion. I guess you could say it’s a little bit of cruise control in a way.

You get to do cool stuff on sets all the time, but to recreate history in pinpoint detail like you did on that rooftop where Pablo Escobar died, that experience on Narcos has to hit you harder than most sets, right?

Yeah, we were on the roof where it happened. It was a surreal re-enactment in a way. Yeah, it’s a wild thing. What you don’t notice are the crowds of people that are gathered behind the camera to come check out the spectacle that’s happening. I don’t know if that’s good or bad; it’s just a very surreal experience.

Did you record Steve Murphy’s narration during post-production? Or did you knock it out while filming each episode?

In the first season, we were just trying to figure out the rhythm and the most efficient way of doing it. So we would constantly do it all the time. And then, the picture lock would change, so that means the timing would be off and you’d have to redo it tens upon tens of times. And then, by the second season, we were doing the voiceovers about a couple weeks after we would wrap the episode. We’d get sort of a loose mold, a loose time and structure on it. And then, as they got the picture locked, then it was finalized. That means that the narration could not be changed either. Yeah, we found a way by the second season.

Logan is a top-tier comic book movie, and your work as Donald Pierce was quite memorable. Is it true that Val Kilmer’s Doc Holliday from Tombstone was a reference for your own performance?

No, that’s a good one, though. I fucking love that movie. I used to be able to quote that entire film verbatim when I was growing up. That’s really interesting, though. I can see that now. Yeah, there’s a lot of similarities, and maybe subconsciously, that happened. But I don’t think I set out with that. Actually, I was drawing off of Tennessee Williams quite a bit for that because of his sultry ways. (Laughs.) He was quite an interesting guy and had a very interesting speech pattern. And his flamboyance, I guess.

I love that scene where Laura’s (Dafne Keen) powers are first introduced. As she walks towards Pierce, revealing her claws, Pierce says, “No. Nooo!” like a pet owner would say to train their animal. Did James Mangold offer that direction in the script or on the day? Or did you recognize that puppy training-type dynamic on your own?

I recognized that pretty early on because that was a good point of view of how I looked at things. A very sterile way. Obviously, there’s a reflection of a huge hierarchy between those two people, between Pierce and Laura at the time. Yeah, I think Pierce is a guy all about control, so he’s always making actions to keep that order going. So, yeah, I thought that was quite cool, especially when she rolls the head over. (Laughs.) My action for that was to make you feel like this has happened before and how disappointed I was the last time. And this is just a recurring thing that I can’t get my pet to break — like sort of pissing on your rug or something like that.

Pretty much everyone who’s ever worked with Fincher has a story relating to how meticulous he is. Does anything come to mind from your experience with him on Gone Girl, such as the writing on your cast?

You know, I’d put a cast on because of the moment at the end of the film. I had to barge my way into a door, and I thought, if the character had a broken arm because he was kind of a ding-dong — and the type of guy that would break his arm — then later on, he could use that prop to not let the door slam. It would slam on his cast. But when we got to actually do that scene, it just didn’t work out in the blocking. So it was sort of “don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater,” I guess. But yeah, that’s kind of how I had to look at things and develop stuff. It’s got to be functional. Can I use it later on? Or is it just a prop that I’ve got on my hand or a toothpick I’ve got in my mouth?

Did you get to experience Fincher’s usual routine of 70-plus takes?

(Laughs.) Yeah, absolutely. And it’s a good thing, I think, because when you’re on an independent feature, you get literally three takes. And there’s pros and cons to that. I think it’s good to have different extremes. If you shoot really quick, then you’ve got to be on your toes, or we’re going to be shooting this scene for ten hours. So, yeah, it’s just a really great fluctuation of both sides of the world.

In the Shadow of the Moon was really cool. I’m still shocked by how good the hair and makeup was as the characters aged. Was that something you were initially concerned about before signing on and seeing the great work of that department?

Yeah, I was extremely concerned about that. But our head makeup artist, Jordan Samuel, and some more guys, were from The Shape of Water. They had that crew, so I feel like they definitely knew what they were doing. It was pretty good stuff, but I was definitely concerned. Just the smallest thing can take you out of a scene. [Writer’s note: In the Shadow of the Moon’s makeup department also had artists from Suicide Squad’s Oscar-winning team.]

Through no fault of your own, The Predator didn’t go as everyone had planned, but looking back, was it one of those classic Hollywood examples of too many cooks in the kitchen?

I just think the first one [Predator] caught lightning in a bottle. And with people wanting to do more, maybe you should just let a sleeping dog lie, sometimes. That was a big takeaway for me.

Did you get to finish B.J. Novak’s movie, Vengeance, before the shutdown?

No, we were in Albuquerque, and we have about 10 days left. So I’m hoping this fall — or beginning of next year — we’ll go back and do that. Just when everything gets back in order. But yeah, Vengeance should be great. And then, B.J. and I also have an episode called “A Moment of Silence” on a new series called Platform. I think it’s going to be on FX.

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The Fugitive is now available on Quibi.

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